Height and Weight of the Rider
The size of the skis depend on your own height and weight. Currently, people are generally skiing on gear that's a couple inches shorter than they are tall, says Hunt. For most, that means about nose level, but personal preference can affect that as well. For a beginner, think about going shorter because a shorter ski is easier to maneuver and won't overpower a novice.
If you are more advanced on the slopes, opt for a longer ski that will provide more stability and control at higher speeds. The weight of the rider really only comes into play for extremes, such as a tall and skinny build or short and stocky. If you have more weight, try a longer ski that will handle your push; if you're lanky and tall, a shorter ski will be easier to control without as much body weight.
Rocker and Camber
Unless you're already a skier or snowboarder, this might be a completely foreign term to you. Picture a ski laying flat on a table—in the past, the very tip and the tail would be touching the table, with the ski arching up so you can see between the rest of the ski and the table. That shape and space is 100 percent camber.
One hundred percent rocker would have the waist of the ski flat on the table, with the tip and tail up. Now, skis have a mix of rocker and camber, with between 8 to 15 inches of the tip and tail of the skis floating above the table after the point where they no longer make contact with the table.
"Basically, the rocker provides a bit more float and allows the ski to engage in a different way," Hunt says. "If you are carving, the edge engages into the snow, and you are feeling that turn radius as you have that ski on edge and bring you around in an arc. The ski engages a bit later and a little bit smoother with the rocker in the tip and disengages a little bit easier, so you can break free from that turn easier."
Although wood is the most prevalent material used in skis, more and more companies are experimenting with different types of wood, such as the Asian wood, Paulownia, or even bamboo. Both are lighter woods that still have good strength. When you add a lighter wood to the tips and tail, but keep a strong wood underfoot—such as Aspen, maple or fir—you get skis that have less overall weight, which makes for easier turning and less effort all around. There is also the carbon option, which is very light, but very pricey.
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